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Professor John McKnight: Community Building

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How Community Initiatives Get Started

So this is the first building block and the most important. Now, remember I said a gift isn't a gift until it's given. So what is the way, naturally, that people tend to give their gifts most often? And... And this research we did with these 3000 examples of local community building made clear to us what it is that is the magnifier or the amplifier of people's gifts, and that is, that they get together with other people who have the same kinds of interests to share.

When we said to people "How did this neighborhood initiative get started?" Where a bunch of residents did something together that made things better. They... The most common place they got started was in small groups, organizations, or clubs in the neighborhood. And there's a name in the university for these that we have used called associations. Groups of people who come together in smaller face-to-face groups where the members do the work and they're not paid and there are all kinds of them, and they're called associations.

More community change has come from groups called associations that initiate community ventures than from any other place—not all of them—but more of these initiatives were started by associations.

So when we asked "Where'd this thing get started that brought a bunch of people together to make things better, bringing their gifts together?" The most frequent answer is one of these groups. One of these groups might not have done it by themselves, often they didn't, but they were the starter, the stimulator. They're like the fountainhead that makes a river go on. So this is the second asset.

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